Sony a6000 + Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 compared to Nikon Df + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART

Stock Photos

24MP on an APS-C sensor or 16MP on a 35mm film size / 'full-frame' sensor. Is there any kind of similarity here? The a6000 is a mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L product that many enthuse about. In fact I've had comments posted (now deleted and by either fanatical fanboys or paid internet troublemakers) saying how superior the a6000 is to the Nikon Df and in fact the Leica T as well. It occurred to me that I would do a couple of posts on what I see as the differences. This is the first comparison between the DSLR Nikon and the mirrorless Sony.

SIZE, WEIGHT, DESIGN

This is pretty obvious. The Df is a retro styed DSLR

A few observations here. At ISO 200 the Sony / Zeiss looks very good. Exaggerated because of the fact that I had to move closer with the Nikon because of the crop factor of the a6000. The Nikon colours are more accurate, but the Zeiss 55mm is nice and sharp even wide open. Illustrating that 35mm film size / 'full-frame' sensors are 'problematic' when used with fast lenses wide open. Simply because combinations like this give little room for error when focusing.

At ISO 6400 the difference is huge. The a6000 has lost all fine detail. It's just been noise reduced away. The colour is way off and the dynamic range is..... well there actually isn't much dynamic range left. The pink flower is too light, the blue flower (now rendered purple - it is in fact blue, just like in the Nikon shot) is too dark. Using raw doesn't help because the Sony file is just a mess of colour noise and of course you have to apply just as much noise reduction to get it looking acceptable. The Sony shot also looks like it's been illuminated in some way. In fact this is a very dark part of my house that gets virtually no light at all and I always use it for low light testing.

Now all of this isn't of course surprising and just what anybody apart from the most optimistic Sony fanboy would expect. And putting the a6000 up against the best low light sensor ever isn't really that fair. So the a6000 at high ISO's? Well downsize the image and post on the internet and it will probably be OK. Anything else, well remember there are things called flashguns.

SOME CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE CAMERAS.

So for me and for anyone who has eyes really, the Nikon Df wins hands down for low light image quality. It also wins for dynamic range which is exceptional, the best I've ever seen from a digital camera I've used. Personally I like the Nikon menu system better,  but then I've used it longer since I've owned Nikons for years.

The knobs and dials? Well, I've actually found them a pleasure to use, Strangely enough I like both the Df arrangement and the Leica T, which is all touchscreen. The reason for this is that on both cameras all the essential stuff that I adjust on a regular basis is in the same place. On the Nikon it's on the body, on the Leica it's on the screen. What I find unnecessarily complicated is this hybrid menu / knobs and dials 'solution' which, for me, bedevils many mirrorless cameras. And the Sony is a prime example of this. It takes time to learn how to operate a Sony camera, and to be honest I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the system even now. I wrote ages that I could pick up a Nikon and take it out without reading a word of the manual and use it successfully. The Df is no different in that regard. I just think Nikon does menus and controls better.

So is one of these the 'better' camera? Well that's a subjective assessment and I guess I'd better make one. The Sony is a very good camera indeed. It has great video, whereas the Nikon has none. It's significantly cheaper and it's smaller and lighter. Now all of these will persuade many of it's worth and get it their vote. But for me, when shooting stills the Nikon Df is in a class of it's own. The image quality is breathtaking at all ISO's. Dynamic range and high ISO performance are to die for. The Df sensor sets the benchmark for all other sensors and to be honest after using it every other sensor in every other camera I've owned or currently own is a disappointment by comparison. And contrary what many many will tell you I think the AF is better. It's smooth, silent and deadly. Deadly in the sense that it's dead accurate and dead reliable time after time. It is also very quick. And if people say it isn't I just have to wonder what they are doing.

Some say the DSLR is dead. Some say it's dying. But in the case of the DSLR I will paraphrase Mark Twains quote:- '"Rumours of it's death are greatly exaggerated.' Now there is no doubt that cameras without mirrors and pentaprisms offer a lot more possibilities for digital cameras and will surely become the 'norm' sooner rather than later. But Nikon have been making SLR and DSLR cameras for a long time now and they know what they are doing. They know how to make a camera with a mirror perform accurately, quickly and reliability. And the Df is a prime example of that.

To a large extent I boughtthe Df (and the Leica T if truth be told) because I'm somewhat fed up with the mirrorless merry-go-round of upgrade > lose money, upgrade > lose money, upgrade > lose money........etc. etc. And I also wanted to use a camera with a bit of 'character'. Now I've written many times about my inability to bond with any Sony camera. Much as I admire what's in those polycarbonate black boxes, I seem to get no pleasure from using them. With Nikons and Leicas every time I press the shutter it's an event and seems to mean something. And if you think that's pretentious twaddle you're probably right, but I can't think of a better way to put it. The a6000 is a terrific camera. One of the best mirrorless offerings out there, if not the best. And if you want to see what I've liked about it CLICK THIS LINK to see my blogger posts about it. But swimming against the tide I may be, the Nikon Df is a wonderful camera as far as I'm concerned. And it does what I want it to do and does it flawlessly and effortlessly. The image quality is second to none and it's a pleasure to use. What more could I want?

SOME CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE LENSES.

Both are terrific optics. But I have to give to give my verdict here to the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8. Because it produces serious sharpness in a smaller, lighter package. In terms of how I use lenses the Sigma is marginally better in terms of results, but it is a big heavy lens, whereas the Sony / Zeiss is the opposite of that. Sigma were going for optimum quality across the various camera brands and in that they have succeeded magnificently. But the difference in sensor performance at high ISO's is a significant factor here. I can use the Sigma (manual focus via an adapter) on the Sony but I can't do it the other way round. And that's a shame, because I believe it would make some amazing pictures with that Nikon sensor. If you were considering getting the Sigma to try on a Sony camera and are maybe waiting for the a-mount version to come out, I would suggest that that maybe you should seriously consider the Sony Zeiss 55mm instead. And yes the Zeiss Otus 55mm may be better than either of them, but £3000+ for a manual focus lens? No thanks. And have no doubt both the Sigma and the Sony / Zeiss are top class lenses, two of the best out there. Neither will disappoint. In  fact quite the opposite.